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Online sales are on the decline. Even for larger well-known brands like Target, who reported a 10.5% YoY dip in online sales during the fiscal second quarter, and a 4.3% decline in comparable in-store sales. While these figures may be daunting, there is a wealth of knowledge on one of the major factors expected to influence the consumer landscape: student loans.

Student Loan Repayment Projected Impact on Online Consumer Behavior

As the summer ends, the start of student loan payments inch closer, which are poised to deduct approximately $300 from the average consumer’s monthly disposable income, starting in October. This shift in available funds is expected to have the most profound impact on Millennials and Gen X consumers. The reduction in disposable income could lead to substantial changes in purchasing habits, potentially causing a ripple effect across various sectors.

Morgan Stanley offers a glimpse into the consumer response to this financial shift:

  • 29% of federal student-loan borrowers are confident they’ll be able to afford payments without adjusting spending in other areas
  • 37% of borrowers surveyed said they’ll need to cut back spending in other areas
  • A concerning 34% said they won’t be able to afford the payments at all
  • 61% said they anticipate scaling back on spending in the coming six months

E-Commerce Expected to Rise Amidst Challenges

Despite these challenges, the e-commerce realm is not without its silver lining. E-commerce sales, while no longer skyrocketing as during the peak of the pandemic, are still anticipated to grow. However, the pace of growth is projected to be closer to pre-pandemic levels, marking a return to a more stable trajectory. According to FTI Consulting, the anticipated e-commerce growth rate through 2025 will surpass store-based sales growth by more than twofold.

Personalization emerges as a critical factor in enhancing the consumer shopping experience. Shoppers emphasize that tailored messaging and individualized shopping journeys are pivotal in creating a sense of connection and engagement.

Key Takeaways for Digital Marketers (And Brands Alike!)

If your average target consumer will be impacted by student loan repayments ramping back up (Millenials and Gen X), be mindful of their pain points and strategize accordingly. Here are some key tips to keep in mind:

💡​ Adjust your messaging and targeting strategy. A few examples of this might include: catering to bundle-forward options in your messaging, adjusting targeting to reach higher-income consumer levels where possible, and segmenting your lists based on high LTV customers with tighter lookback windows. Additionally, affordability is the name of the game right now, so skip descriptions like “luxury” or “high-end” to encourage inclusivity.

💡​ Tailor and customize your ads to meet the consumer where they are in the funnel. This includes campaign structures that utilize segmentation (and up-to-date!) exclusion lists. If you don’t have a present-day understanding of your target buyers by category, segment your target audience by age group over the next few months. This will help you identify trends and tailor strategies according to evolving behavior patterns.


In a time when understanding consumer behavior nuances is paramount, Socium Media offers more than just solutions—we provide a strategic partnership focused on resilience and growth. With a finger on the pulse of industry shifts, we’ll guide your brand toward effective strategies that resonate with the ever-evolving consumer landscape. Learn more about how we can help.

Nina Dans